Exhibition of Paintings, Bronzes and Ceramics
by Selma McCormack
June 1st - June 22nd 2001
Opening Speech by Tom Duddy, N.U.I. Galway
One of the remarkable things about Selma McCormack is that when she took up art after raising a family, she did not settle for watercolour landscapes, or for still lifes in pastel, or for flower studies in oils. She turned instead to one of the most challenging and most demanding of art forms; namely, sculpture, including bronze and ceramics. Happily for her and happily for us, it transpires that she has a real gift of shaping. The gift for sculpture is the gift of shaping - of shaping materials in accordance with certain subtle laws of proportion and expression. Proportion without expression is lifeless; while expression without proportion is artless. But the gifted sculptor never loses sight of both of these requirements, and produces figures that are at one artful and animated, at once formal and yet full of reference to life.
Selma McCormack's gift for shaping materials in a delicately balanced and expressive way is abundantly evident in the pieces on display in this exhibition, especially in works like "Horse and Rider", which is full of visual incident and spatial drama, and "Mother and Child Dancing", which bristles with so much energy that you forget what it's made of, you forget that it's made of hard-edged material stuff. These bronzes and ceramics are, of course, not just pieces of shaped material - they are finely tuned embodiments of moments in time, of actions, of relationships, and even of states of mind. This is sculpture at its most artful, most expressive, and most humane.
But, Selma McCormack, it transpires, is an artist of not one but two gifts. As well as the gift of shaping - the gift of sculpture - she also possesses a very different gift, the gift of colour, a gift which is evident in the paintings on display here. If the eye is made for light and colour, then the eye should revel in these paintings. These paintings are free assemblies of colour, in which each colour earns its keep by contributing to a beautiful visual effect. But these paintings are more than just decorative abstractions, more than just abstract refreshments for the jaded eye. There is something in them that prevents them becoming merely decorative.
In many of these paintings you will see a depth of a realistic picture. There is in them an evocative depth that extends mysteriously beyond the plane of the picture. This depth is most evident and most effective in the diptych called "The Boathouse", with its magical suggestion of water, reflection, and darkness. It is also evident in "Harbour Evening", in "Marakesh" and in "Someplace in St. Anne's". These and other paintings work like revelations - they do not set out to directly represent a scenario of the world; yet, in the process of painting, in the free-fall of colour and paint, a scenario of the world emerges and materializes within the painting, like a clearing in the forest. This physical world does not dictate the content or meaning of these pictures, but still and all, the world puts in an appearance, makes its presence felt, makes its presence visible. These surprise appearances, these surprise visitations of the world, such as we get in these images, are often more effective than the more exact representations that we may get in more realistic pictures.
Here, then, we have an artist who turned to art relatively late in life and turned to it with courage and with talent and with invention. She has brought into the world objects and images that would not exist but for her unique sensibility and her shaping mind and hand. That is what the creative artist does, and that is what this particular artist has done most effectively in the figures and images set before us this evening.
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